Remembering one of my favourite writer/directors of the 80s, following on for my “In Memorandum” on what would have been his Birthday.
I initially thought this would be an easy list to compile, what with some of John’s films being as iconic as they are. So there are some obvious choices here.
But then there were some films of his I remember not liking all that much years ago or films I loved back then, only to find that my tastes have changed as well as my opinions which made me rethink what some of my favourite now are.
I’ll tell you now, there will be no Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Home Alone here. Sorry, I really can’t stand those films.
So lets crack on with a look at some of my favourite John Hughes films as a writer and director.
National Lampoon’s Vacation: Released in 1983 and directed by the great Harold Ramis this one was written by Hughes after a string of not so great films and was the film that really kick started his film making career.
Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall with a brilliant cameo from John Candy.
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides to take his family, wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and two children Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) on a cross country road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit “America’s Favourite Family Fun Park”, Walley World.
Along the journey, the family are struck with a series of mishaps from vandals in St. Louis a slight problem with a dog and even becoming stranded in the desert. Clark also gains the attention of a beautiful young woman (Christie Brinkley) driving a Ferrari.
They make a stop in Kansas to visit Ellen’s cousin Catherine and her husband Eddie (Randy Quaid) who eventually convince Clark to give Aunt Edna a ride to Phoenix. This goes as well as can be expected.
After a while, the family become disheartened with the whole trip and beg to go back home, but Clark refuses and becomes obsessed with wanting to reach Walley World. They eventually arrive at the theme park only to find that it is closed for repairs. Clark finally snaps and takes the security guard Russ Lasky (John Candy) hostage and demands he allows the family into the park and on the rides. Eventually the police turn up to arrest Clark along with Walley World owner Roy Walley.
National Lampoon’s Vacation was a huge hit and cemented John Hughes as bankable writer, the film also opened doors for him as a director too. The film went on to become a successful franchise in it’s own right with three official sequels, two spin offs and even a sequel/remake/reboot in 2015. There were even two more films that were being worked on but never got off the ground, National Lampoon’s Australian Vacation and Swiss Family Griswold.
Clark Griswold: “I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation, its a quest, its a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes!”
The Breakfast Club: A brilliant coming of age comedy/drama written, produced, and directed by John Hughes and released in 1985. The title comes from the slang invented by students for morning detention.
Starring Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, John Kapelos, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. The five main teenage actors would become known as “The Brat Pack”.
Five students report in at 7:00 a.m. for all day detention at Shermer High School on On Saturday, March 24, 1984. The five are not complete strangers and all know of each other, but none of them are friends as they each come from a different clique and share no similar interests.
One is a beautiful and spoilt rich kid Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), school wrestler Andrew Clarke (Emilio Estevez), bookish nerd Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), outcast and misunderstood Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), and rebellious John Bender (Judd Nelson).
The detention is overseen by principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) who instincts the five students to write a 1,000-word essay where each of the five must describe “who you think you are” and leaves them to it but occasionally returns to check up on them. Even the school janitor Carl (John Kapelos) appears now and again to offer his worldly views and opinions.
Bender has a particular antagonistic relationship with Vernon and throughout the film he continues to push and agitate the principal. Even when Vernon is out of the room, Bender turns his bad attitude towards the other four students constantly needling and making snippy comments. He teases Brian for his nerdy style and the fact he does so well at school, Andrew for being the jock and he even has a go at Claire for being rich and spoiled by her parents.
The tension keeps building until Andrew snaps and decides to bite back at Bender. They pass the hours of the detention by arguing with each other. Bender get bored and decides to take a trip to his locker to retrieve his stash of cannabis. After some more arguments, Bender starts smoking as the others slowly join him. This is when they five strangers begin to open up to each other and reveal their personal secrets and even tell each other why they are in detention to begin with. The group ask Brian to write the essay and he agrees.
They slowly begin to form friendships and relationships as the day continues. The detention finally comes to an end but there are doubts that some of them would remain friends afterwards as they all go their separate ways.
The film ends with principal Vernon reading an essay written by Brian which he signs “The Breakfast Club”.
The Breakfast Club is a fantastic, bitter sweet comedy/drama which really seems to capture teenagers attitudes without insulting them. John Hughes was often praised for how her wrote teenagers and this film is a prime example for that. A small cast and the film largely takes place in one room which makes it suitable for a stage play…which I would love to see.
This is probably my favourite film John Hughes was ever involved in and for me, his true masterpiece.
The film was a huge success too with it being made on a budget of $1 million and brining in $51.5 million at the box office, not bad eh?
The film has gone on to become a favourite of many people and received high critical acclaim.
With Bender’s catchphrase of “eat my shorts” being replicated by Bart Simpson and Bender as a character being self absorbed, selfish, obnoxious and someone who hates rules…he reminds me of another character called Bender…
I wonder if Matt Groening is a fan?
John Bender: “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”
National Lampoon’s European Vacation: The first sequel in the Vacation franchise written by John Hughes and directed by Amy Heckerling, released in 1985.
Starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back from the original film, however the two children have been recast with Dana Hill and Jason Lively as Anthony Michael Hall declined to return as Rusty so he could appear in Weird Science (more on this next) instead. The decision was then made to recast both the children.
Also of note, this is the only film in the series to misspell the family name as “Griswald”, instead of “Griswold”.
The Griswald family take part in a game show called “Pig in a Poke” and they end up winning an all expenses paid tour of western Europe. Their first country is England where they stay in London (of course) and the mishaps begin. They hire a Austin Maxi and go for a driving tour of London, where they literately run into a well mannered cyclist played by Eric Idol who then reappears throughout the film. Clark even manages to destroy Stonehenge before they leave for their next port of call.
They arrive in Paris and Clark buys the family some berets to “blend in”. They family go to a French restaurant where Clark “impresses” the waiter with his use of the French language. Rusty goes to a typical French live show involving semi naked women where Clark and Ellen also happen to be. While they ask a stranger to take a photo of them, their video camera gets stolen before they have to move onto the next country.
Germany in where they go to next and they have previously arranged to meet up with some German relatives. The Griswalds can’t speak a word of German and their “relatives” can’r speak a word of English. This all leads to a misunderstanding but they stay the night after a hearty meal. The next day, the family Clark takes part in a Bavarian folk dance but manages to turn it into an all out street brawl instead and get involved in a car chase. They leave Germany for their final country in the tour.
Now in Italy, Rome for the end of their vacation. They lose all their money but manage to hire a new car and even get given some spare cash by the owner of the car rental place…who is actually thief holding the real owner hostage. While in Rome, Ellen discovers that certain footage from their stolen camera has been turned into a film she is not to happy with as she storms off to their hotel. The kids grow tired of Clark’s constant troubles and decide to explore Rome on their own leaving Clark alone. Back at the hotel, Ellen encounters the guy from the car hire place who takes her hostage Clark has to then chase down the thief to get his wife back and manages to find his kids along the way. The vacation comes to and end and the Griswalds go back home to America.
This one was not as well received as the original, but I still really enjoy it. The humour is largely the same from the previous film and the added variation of scenery from the different countries is also a nice welcome as it provides a visual treat along the way. Some of the jokes can be hit and miss, but there are still some great funny scenes.
Rusty Griswold: “Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her. ”
Weird Science: The film that Anthony Michael Hall decided to do over National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Written and directed by John Hughes in 1985. The film’s title comes from a series of 1950s EC comics of the same name and the films plot is an expanded version of the story “Made of the Future” from one of the comics.
Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Kelly Le Brock with early appearances from Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Paxton.
Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) play a couple of nerdy outcasts who are often humiliated by the school bullies Ian (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler). Gary convinces Wyatt that they need to boost their popularity in order to get girlfriends. Wyatt’s parents are away for the weekend and while the duo are watching the classic 1931 version of Frankenstein, Gary comes up with the idea to create a simulation of the perfect woman using Wyatt’s computer, a simulation they can use to learn more about girls. They continue to feed the computer more and more information to help the simulated girl become as “real” as possible, they take things a little too far when they decide to copy Frankenstein and hook up a electrodes to a doll to perform a ritual. They even hack into the government’s computer system for more power and input.
Eventually a power surge causes Wyatt’s computer to make their simulated woman real and Lisa (Kelly Le Brock) is “born”…hey if you are going to create the perfect woman, you can’t do much better than Kelly Le Brock. Lisa is not only stunningly beautiful, but she is also highly intelligent and goes about trying to make the boys more popular. She also has the power to make anything appear from cars to clothing and anything else she wants.
Lisa takes them to a bar for a few drinks where Gary reveals he names the woman Lisa after a failed relationship from his past. As they return home, we met Wyatt’s older brother, Chet (Bill Paxton) who has been left in charge while their parents are away. Chet is a complete asshole and extorts money from his brother to keep quiet about his drunken behaviour. All while Gary and Wyatt try to keep Lisa a secret.
The next day, Lisa takes Gary and Wyatt to a shopping mall. Also at the mall are the bullies Ian and Max who manage to humiliate the boys by dropping ICEE drinks on them in front of everybody at the mall. Ian and Max discover Lisa and try to peruse her around the mall. This is when they find out that Lisa is with Gary and Wyatt and are shocked, Lisa also mentions they are having a party at Wyatt’s house that night that Wyatt knows nothing about. Lisa throws the party to try and help the boys become more popular.
That night, the party gets a little out of hand with more people turning up than expected. Ian and Max ask where Lisa came from and Gary and Wyatt tell them. The bullies don’t believe a woman could be created on a computer, so Gary and Wyatt show them to try to become more popular. Only this time they forget to hook up a doll and instead they create a ballistic missile which was on the cover of the magazine the electrodes were resting on. A real missile appears and crashes through the house. Lisa then decides the boys need a real boost and makes a gang of bikers (al la Mad Max 2) appear with the idea that Gary and Wyatt would stand up to them showing everyone at the party that they are pretty cool after all. Instead of standing up to the bikers, Gary and Wyatt run away and hide. The biker stake two girls hostage, two girls the boys just so happen to really like. After a talk from Lisa, Gary and Wyatt finally stand up to the bikers and convince them to leave the party.
Gary and Wyatt are hailed as heroes and they even get the girls at the end. Lisa puts the house back to normal before Wyatt’s parents turn up the next day. Lisa reveals to the boys she has to go now her work is done and she leaves.
Weird Science is a stupid film in many ways, its plot is really “out there”…but its also extremely funny and I used to watch this almost weekly as a teenager. Its still a lot of fun even today. The film received a lot of mixed reviews at the time but has gone on to become a cult favourite. It even had its own TV spin off in which ran from 1994-1998. There have even been rumours that Universal Studios are planning a remake.
Lisa: “You know there’s going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll. Chips, dips, chains, whips. You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I’m not talking candlewax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no. Just a couple of hundred kids running around in their underwear, acting like complete animals.”
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: This is when Hughes wanted to try something a little more “adult” as he felt he was being pigeon holed by doing teen comedies. Written, produced and directed by John Hughes, relased in 1987.
Starring Steve Martin and John Candy.
Neal Page (Steve Martin) is an advertising executive trying to make his way home to his family for Thanksgiving from New York to Chicago. The misadventure begins when Neal tries to hail a cab on the streets of New York, yet he is beaten to the cab by another man (Kevin Bacon in a cameo). Neal then haggles for another cab from an attorney but while they are fighting over the price Del Griffith (John Candy) mistakenly gets in the cab as he believed it was free.
Neal eventually makes it to JFK airport to catch his plane home and also at the airport getting on the same plane is Del. Neal recognises him as the man who stole his cab. Del apologises for stealing the cab as he didn’t realise it was Neal’s. They both board the plane and just so happen to be sitting next to each other. The plane is diverted due to bad weather and what should have been a 2 hour flight becomes a longer trip where everything goes wrong.
All fights are grounded due to the weather and Neal has no choice but to wait it out and tries to find a hotel he can stay in. Del says he thought ahead and while Neal was trying to get another flight, he already book a room in a hotel. Neal tries to get his own hotel room but discovers they are all full so Del invites Neal to stay with him. The hotel ends up being a shabby motel but Neal has no other options and agrees to stay the night. The two just do not get on at all with Del’s behaviour starting to grate on Neal. They agree to make a truce for the night and then go their separate ways in the morning. However, during the night, their room is broken into and their money is stolen as they sleep.
The next morning, they find their money is gone and have to resort to other means to try and get home. Neal buys both of them train tickets using his credit card to get back home and they decide to travel together for a while. The train breaks down forcing the duo to find other means. Neal sees Del struggling with his huge case and offers help. They have to use a but but it is only going as far as St. Louis. When they arrive, the two part ways and Neal tries to hire a car with disastrous results (my favourite scene in the film), with no car Neal is left stranded again…until Del turns up in a car he has managed to hire and offers Neal a lift.
While driving together they start arguing again and end up in a near death experience which results in the car being set on fire. Neal starts to gloat over Del’s predicament as he would be liable for the damage to the car. However, Neal’s amusement quickly changes to anger when Del reveals he used Neal’s credit card to rent the car after their cards were accidentally switched on the first night at the hotel.
With the credit cards destroyed in the car fire, they have no money. Neal offers his designer watch in exchange for a hotel room while Del has to stay in the burnt out car in the snow. Neal eventually feels sorry for Del and invites him to stay in the hotel room. They begin to bond a little while drinking and slowly become friends. The next day they set out again in the burnt out car but get pulled over by the police and what is left of the car is impounded. They get lift in a refrigerated truck back to Chicago and they are both finally back in their home town.
The two part ways again at the train station as Neal boards a train to take him home. Neal begins to reminisce over the last few days and slowly starts to piece together that Del is all alone and has no family or no home either. Neal heads back to the train station and invites Del home to meet his family.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a hilariously funny film full of great jokes and brilliant performances from both Steve Martin and John Candy. The film met with rave reviews and is still considered one of the best comedy film ever today. The film is funny but also touching as the two main characters start out hating each other, but slowly begin to warm to each other as the film progresses.
Neal: “And I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there. And I really didn’t care to fucking walk, down a fucking highway, and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face. I want a fucking car right fucking now!”
Uncle Buck: Written and directed by Hughes yet again and teaming up with his friend John Candy once more. The film was released in 1989.
Starring John Candy and Amy Madigan with Jean Louisa Kelly, Gaby Hoffmann, Macaulay Culkin, Jay Underwood, and Laurie Metcalf in supporting roles.
Bob and Cindy Russell with their three children move to Chicago from Indianapolis due to Bob getting a promotion at work. Their eldest daughter, Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) resents the move. One night Cindy receives a phone call teller her that her father has suffered a heart attack. Bob and Cindy decide to leave so they can be with Cindy’s father in his time of need. Bob suggests they ask his brother Buck (John Candy) to look after the kids while they are away.
Buck is an unemployed lout who’s favourite pastimes are drinking and smoking while gambling on horses…not the best guardian for three children but there is really no other choice. Bob agrees to look after the children to avoid starting a job his girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan) has found for him.
Buck quickly becomes friendly with the two younger children Miles (Macaulay Culkin) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffmann) but Tia becomes rebellious. Buck meets Tia’s boyfriend Bug (Jay Underwood) who is only using Tia for sex. Buck continually thwarts Bug and Tia’s dates and various attempts to be together.
Over the next few days, Buck entertains the children by visiting his favourite bowling alley, making huge pancakes for Miles’ birthday. Buck even tries his hand at laundry with comical results.
Bug continues to pursue Tia much to Buck’s disapproval. But when Buck literally tells Bug he would like to “bury the hatchet” (with a real hatchet), Tia decides to extract revenge by making Chanice think that Buck is cheating on her with their neighbour, Marcy (Laurie Metcalf). Tia sneaks out to a party and Buck decides to go looking for her, at the party Buck believes Bug is taking advantage of Tia in one of the rooms. He tracks down Bug and threatens him with a drill only to find Bug is with another girl. Buck then ties Bug up and pouts him in the trunk of his car.
Buck finds Tia wandering the streets and she apologies to him and acknowledges that Bug was not worth it after all. Buck pulls over and lets bug out of the trunk so he can apologise to Tia, now relased Bug threatens to sue Buck. However, Buck using some impressive golfing skills to get Big to retract his threat. Back home, Tia tells Chanice the whole Buck cheating with the neighbour was a lie and Buck agrees to take the job Chanice found him.
Uncle Buck is one of those cheesy “everything works out fine in the end” films and definitely not one of John Hughes’ best…but John Candy is so likeable as the loutish Uncle Buck and makes the film really enjoyable. There are some great gags in the film too alongside some not so funny moments. The film received positive reviews and good critical reception overall.
There was even a TV show spin off that ran from 1990-1991, which was panned by critics. But this has not stopped the Uncle Buck franchise as another TV show reboot is planned for release this year.
Buck: “Hey, Bobby we should really get together sometime. I haven’t been over at the new house since you moved. By the way, I want to apologize for last year at your old house about those bushes. I had no idea they all would catch on fire like that. You were right. I should never have put the barbecue grill that close.”
So there are some of my favourite John Hughes films. The man had a great career and is often recognised as one of the best writer/directors of the 80s…and rightly so too.
Happy Birthday John.